Thursday, March 10, 2016

Purim is coming: DIY Costume!

I realize that Purim is only a little over 10 days away.  Under two weeks.  The title of my post must seem a bit impossible to you.  Purim is so so so close and you think I still have time to MAKE a costume.  Yes, yes I do.

Perhaps you go to a more conservative or orthodox synangogue.  Perhaps your daughter goes to a Jewish preschool that prefers their Purim to be purimy...not halloweeney.  Maybe you want your daughter to be Queen Esther, not dressed like Queen Elsa.  If that's true, then here is the answer for you- the Peasant Dress.  Easy to make, minimal or no sewing required.  In fact I have personally made two of these dresses inside of one evening after the kiddos went to bed.  I believe that you can to!

The first thing we need to know is what's a peasant dress.  It's a super simple dress not that far from the pillowcase dress. It has a gathered neckline and gathered sleeves, meaning that you make it out of basically a square and then use some elastic to make the neckline fit.

Here are some images of the ones I made for my kiddos.  The bright yellow tie and purple tie on the front is literally a shoelace from her lacing card kit.  In these cases I made these out of super simple fabric that was around, literally out of sheets.  Then I had them put over little vests that I made two.

Here are a few excellent tutorials on how to make them.  Since such great tutorials exist, I don't really think I need to write out another one.

Tutorial Number 1: Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom
Tutorial Number 2: Once Upon a Sewing Machine
Tutorial Number 3: Sew like my Mom

For all of these tutorials you can easily use Iron seam tape.  Just make sure you buy the really good stuff that's totally permanent and spend a long time with the iron.  I also suggest that you take a blouse or a non-cotton shirt that is large on your child and use that as a base.  It can sometimes be much simpler than printing out the pattern.  You aren't making a dress forever, it's just for a day of fun.  If you want to make a super simple bodice, just use that hem tape to add a fancy ribbon.  You could even just tie it around the waist.   Here's a quick tutorial for a vest:

Tutorial Number 1- 8: All Free Sewing
Tutorial Number 9: One Moms Daily Drama

If you aren't up for making the vest just pair the Peasant dress with a skirt and an apron.  YOU CAN DO IT MAMA!

Top Photo: Stitched By Sara

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kesha: NOT an Agunah

I'm sure you've all heard the story of Kesha by now.  If you haven't here's the long and short of it via Skimm:


Will $250,000 get you through? Earlier this week, Taylor Swift wrote "$250,000" in the blank space on a check to Kesha to help the singer get through some tough times. Back in 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit against her former producer Dr. Luke for allegedly drugging, raping, and verbally abusing her for years. Dr. Luke has denied the charges, and his lawyers sayKesha made up the claims to get out of her recording contract. Late last week, a NY judge said she can't get out of her contract early while the court case plays out. Lots of big name ladies in music – Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, and now T-Swift – have come out to support Kesha. 
So now that you have the DL on what's up with Kesha, let's talk about all the Jewish writers out there comparing her to an Agunah.  Wait, you don't know Agunah.  It's a Jewish terms which literally means a 'chained woman.'  Basically it boils down to the fact that in order to get a divorce a woman needs to have consent from her husband.  Here in America it's possible for you to have a civil divorce but not a religious one, which means that living with another man or having children would make them technically children born out of wedlock, despite a civil marriage to the contrary.

Back to Kesha.  What she's going through is really rough, and I do feel badly for her.  I can understand how being forced to stop working, unable to do what she loves and secure a financial future.  I don't agree with the court for enforcing the contract with her attacker, which means she is legally chained to a man who has abused her.  But I still don't think that makes her an agunah.

To compare a woman's ability to earn money as similar to her ability to raise her family, find and have love and enjoy any actual freedom is insane.  It belittles women around the world who are struggling to get a 'get.'  In a marriage you have an interplay of family, children, finances, home, everything a person needs to have and keep a secure life.  While Kesha might not be able to make money being a recording artist, there's nothing to stop her from having a safe home, a loving and normal relationship, etc.  Maybe she can do what Prince did to get out of his contract?

Divorce is an extremely complicated issue, which already has so many sides and factors to consider.  And the Jewish position which puts women at a disposition can really seem like an unfortunate side effect.  Here, however, lies the truth.  Neither a woman NOR A MAN can get granted a divorce without consent of the other.  The trouble lies in the fact that a man can 'lie' with another woman, father her children and those children will still be considered Jewish, not mamzerim.  A few movies show the legal difficulties of a woman, who might not be living with her husband, or whose husband may even be deceased without a body and the struggles they go through.

The discussion is particularly relevant, given the Daf Yomi tractate from the Talmud where the Rabbi's debate the particulars of a man granting his wife a gett.  IT's interesting to see the lengths they go to debate something.  To really try to understand the intricacies of what might happen, how that might change things, and where to go from there.

By all means, let's try to free Kesha.  But maybe, while you are thinking about her, you could also be thinking about any of these women, whose plight might be a bit graver than hers...

Redeem Rivky

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Moving Home

It's finally happened.  We've moved our family into the new house. Despite the workmen still coming in and out daily, it is beginning to feel like home.  Sitting on our couch by the fireplace.  Putting Ocho to bed in her wooden crib rather than a pack n play.  Putting our Ketubah on the wall and our mezuzah on the doorpost.

There have been so many emotions in moving to a new place.  Boxes everywhere, tears were shed. On the way over to the new house EG told my in-laws that she wasn't going to sleep there.  That she was going home to Grandpa's house.

It's always tough to transition the family into a new place, so here are a few tips for doing it with kiddos:

1. Prioritize their spaces.  I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, but the reality is that you can unpack the kitchen while the children sleep, but you can't put away their toys in their rooms.  The faster they feel safe, secure and home the better off everyone will be.  It also helps to let them explore where toys are, clothing, and all the things they may have missed during the move.

2. Think about windows, doors and lights.  There's nothing worse then getting out of the shower after washing off all the moving dirt to suddenly realize that the whole neighborhood can see you in your towel.  It seems obvious, but children are exceptionally sensitive to light and are so quick on the pick-up.  They might open the door you never thought they would.  The last thing you need is your 3 year old opening the front door while you think they are safe inside the house.  Trust me...

3. Do it all at once.  Just like ripping off a band-aid and moving to a toddler bed it's best to just do it all at once.  There won't be that many days of transition and the faster you establish the 'new normal' the better off you are.  It can be tempting to try some sort of easing into it, whether letting Ocho sleep in the pack n' play, or letting everyone play at the new house then return to the old to sleep.  It just confuses things and prolongs the adjustment period.

4. Set up Standards.  One of the hardest things with moving is figureing out where everything should go.  As an adult it's okay to think that you can put something somewhere then move it.  But for kiddos that's so much harder.  We have totally lost that battle on the shoes.  We didn't have the support we needed to put together our shoe cabinet until just last night, so everyone has just started throwing shoes on the floor by the door.  Can we change it? Yes, but it will take time and diligence.  Plus a rug by the the garage door..

5. Do something nice for yourself.  Something to make your home yours.  Putting up the mezuzahs was ours, but also commanded.  This door hanger, however, makes the house feel like a home.  It was a gift from Working Dad's brother and his wife.  And we love it.  It makes our house chime with happiness whenever you open the door.  It's your home... do your thing!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tu B'Shevat Celebration: Ideas for the Trees

Happy Tu B'Shevat!  I hope that everyone is having a lovely day celebrating the birthday of the trees.  I t hoght that this year I would go a little out side the 'norm' and not talk about the traditional seder or the eating of extra fruits this year, but rather help our little ones to feel a bit more connected to the trees, mother earth, and their power to impact our world.   Here are a few ideas for birthday presents for the trees:

1. CLEAN UP:  This can be as easy as taking a stroll through your own neighborhood and picking up trash, or as complicated as hiking through the forest.  No one wants to live somewhere dirty, and that includes the trees!  Help our children think of giving the trees the birthday present of a clean piece of dirt (oxymoron anyone).

2. USE LESS WATER:  Of course here in sunny SoCal we've been talking about this for months, but on the birthday of the trees it can be an important point of discussion to understand how a tree grows.  Of course at the end of the day we know the answer is through G-d, but the discussion can still explain how we plant the seed in the ground, give it soil and water and sun, and how it grows to give us shade and food.  Water is one of the most important things a tree needs to survive.  If we use less of it in our homes on ourselves, there is more for the trees!

3. USE LESS PAPER:  This is an especially important concept to introduce as children are young because the habits they form now as they are potty training and learning social manners become habits that are hard to break.  It's hard for a young child to understand that paper towels and toilet paper, not to mention coloring paper, etc. all come from trees.  So begin this discussion around Tu B'Shevat that each piece of paper is part of a tree.  If we use less, then the trees get that many more birthdays to celebrate!  Remind your child when that piece of paper isn't good enough for coloring, that it came from a tree.  And remember yourself as you craft away- crafting is great if it teaches something and engages your child, but sometimes it might be better to leave the paper goods alone....

4. RECYCLE YOUR WATER:  This might seem strange, but there are so many times when we are using water inefficiently.  When you are waiting for the shower to warm-up or the bath.  When you are doing dishes.  All of these times are places where we can recycle our water.  The easiest is when you wait for the bath or shower, since we haven't even used this water yet.  Take it outside, let the kids water the plants with it.

If we present the ideas to our children that the trees deserve birthday gifts too, it's an easy and fun way for our children to impact the world beyond themselves.

Hope you have a fun and exciting Tu B'Shevat!

Photos Creative Commons License via Flickr 1. gfpeck  2. by karolajnat

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jewish Parenting University

New this year Shalom Family, a division of the Jewish Federation and Family Services, will be hosting a series of classes called Jewish Parenting University.  It's for expectant parents, new parents, and parents of children under 5.  


Designed for expectant and new parents, Jewish Parenting University is a Jewish peer parenting group focusing on an exploration of Jewish traditions and rituals connected to parenting through a Jewish lens. Guest facilitators and OC professionals will be discussing life cycle rituals, raising a Jewish mensch, and celebrating holidays and festivals in meaningful ways. Open to new parents, expectant parents, and parents with children 5 and under.

3-Part Series including:            
Wednesday, January 20 – Life Cycle Rituals with Rabbi Marcia Tilchin
Wednesday, January 27 – Raising a Jewish Mensch with Rabbi Marcia Tilchin and Tammy Keces, Principal & Lead Secular Educator of Irvine Hebrew Day School
Wednesday, February 3 – Celebrating Holidays & Festivals in Meaningful Ways with Rabbi Marcia Tilchin and Rabbi Stuart Light, TVT Community Day School

6:00 p.m. Kosher Dinner; 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Session 

Childcare available upon request and provided by College Nannies & Tutors.

I know a couple of people going to the class, so hopefully I'll be able to convince them to maybe write up a few guests posts with some more information about the classes, and how the whole series was.  This is the first time they are offering this, and if you are at all interested, I highly recommend supporting the program.  

If we want programs like this to be offered as part of Shalom Family and JFFS then it's important that we attend and encourage them to keep hosting them.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy Birthday Mom- visiting a grave site

Today was my mother's birthday.  So the whole family made the trip all the way up to the cemetery to go and see her.  There were lots of groups there today- a few funerals, but lots of family groups visiting their loved ones.  However, despite all the activity, we were definitely the only group with children.  Especially young, little, tiny children.

I've tried to explain as best I can to my girls what it means to them that Grandma died.  We've had way, way, way to much death for their little short lives.  But, of course, it really doesn't matter when they learn about it, because it's going to happen eventually no matter what I have to say about the matter.

Jewish tradition doesn't put much stock in visiting the grave site of a loved one.  That's not to say it's not done on the memorial day, or on holy days, but it's sort of seen as a few and far between thing.  Judaism is all about acknowledging the pain, but keeping yourself in the present.  Additionally there is some worry that you could turn your deceased relative into some sort of deity by 'praying to them' at their grave site.  I only think it's interesting because the grave sites of many Rabbi's have become internationally known places to go and pray, not to mention the western wall, which is sort of like the grave site of the temple, no?

But moving on....

It can be sort of tricky to explain to a three year old why you are visiting your dead mother.  The conversation goes something like this....

EG: Where are we going Mom?

Me: To visit Grandma Judy.

EG:  Oh, okay.  Why are we visiting her?

ME: Because today is her birthday, and it's nice to go there to see her.

EG: But mom she can't see us.

ME: Well, I believe she can see us.  I know it's sort of confusing, but there are really two parts to each person.  Your physical body, the part you can touch, and a part we call your soul, which is inside of you that you can't touch.  Grandma Judy is with G-d, and G-d is everywhere, so she can see us.

EG: But Mom, G-d doesn't have eyes...

ME: Well, no he doesn't.  Do you remember the song from school?  Up Up, down down, right left and all around, here there and everywhere that's where he can be found... see, G-d is everywhere.  And so is Grandma Judy.

EG: Look Mom- my shoe won't go on right.

Thank goodness she usually gets distracted before I have to get to far into the conversation.  I'm not afraid to talk about death or G-d or, really, anything with my daughter.  But putting all these confusing topics into words is really hard.  Trying to help her understand.  This is the same girl who is worried about her missing front tooth because it can't see where to go, so she's trying to show it with her own eyes.

Then we get to the graveside.  We wander around looking for appropriate rocks.  One of these days/yahrtzeits I'm going to remember to have her look in advance and paint the rock to leave at the grave site. I think that would be a wonderful and nice tribute to my mom...but I digress.

There we are, with two little tinnies, who are rearranging rocks, adding pine cones, playing literally on my mothers stone.  I know Mom wouldn't mind, but that isn't how the other mourners felt.  We've got no one sitting in black, both of my kids are loud, and pointing out butterflies.  While Working Dad and I are a little subdued, neither of us are trying to shush the kiddos.

At the end of the day these children are her legacy.  They along with their cousins are all that is left in the world of her spirit, and I think they honor her to know where she is, to visit her and maybe connect with her and G-d.  I know that she would love to hear their sweet voices, even their sad cries and tears.  So I choose not to be upset by the fact that some others might not like it.  Let them mourn in their way, and we'll mourn in ours... loudly- with butterflies.

I've been on the search for some books to help with the subject, and the first one I come upon is this one:

It's like a sign from my mom, because she totally LOVED Dr. Laura. In fact she used to listen to her radio program every day, and when I got married the first thing she did was buy me her books about the care and feeding of a hubbie and marriage.

But then I kept looking, because one book might not be enough.  You never know what might click with a kiddo.  Then I found this one...

This is my mother's second favorite author.  And I'm so happy.  It's like G-d is speaking to me through Amazon tonight.  To show me these books, by these authors, because my daughter has questions about her Grandma.

Here's hoping these books with help us answer some of these questions.  Do you have any good books you go to?  Any good thoughts about how to talk to little ones about G-d and graves and death?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

5 Reasons Rainy Days are Awesome

It can be hard to be a mother on a rainy day.  When you pretty much know that all the plans you had for the park, or the playdates are out the window.  When you realize that your crazy children, who need to burn off some steam, aren't going to be getting that running time you thought they would.

Maybe you are different than me, but my house doesn't have a large multipurpose room, nor does it have a running track inside for the kiddos to leap around...

But just because it's raining, doesn't mean all hope is lost for an amazing, or at least tolerable, day.

1. They will likely sleep in.  Think about how you feel when you wake up and it's raining.  It's gloomy and dark outside- if you have curtains you would probably swear it's still the middle of the night.  That soft sound of the rain pitter-pattering just filters into your subconscious, taking away any of the excess sounds of the day or morning.  The birds are sleeping in, or at least hiding from the rain.  The annoying dog who barks at 7am is still inside, waking up it's owners, rather than you... I think it's a wonderful way to start the morning.

2. Free-play leads to creativity.  When your kids are at home for an extended period of time, it might finally allow them some of the unled totally unstructured freeplay that they need.  There have been so many studies recently that discuss the needs of our children when it comes to play.  That they need to have not just recess, but serious time to devote to whatever makes them happy.  This can seem challenging, especially when they want you to 'play' to, but it's important for our children to take the lead. The many hours of a day of rain can help give your kids that opportunity.

3. Family-play leads to fun memories.  I know I just said that you should let your kiddos play by themselves, but let's also consider the wonderful opportunity to do that activity that usually takes to long.  Baking cookies or a pie.  Building a huge tent fort.  Maybe you finally take out all 14 sets of blocks you have and build the larges block tower ever- go for that world record!  These types of experiences are hard to come by, between the errands, the preschool class, etc.... the obligations of life.  Here's baby Ocho (not quite a baby anymore) helping bake.... and making a lovely mess of it too!

4. Rain play is awesome and totally fun.  This is the plan when the kiddos wake up.  No shoes, pants or shorts with rain jackets.  Out to the park will go we.  To enjoy all that rainy weather has to offer.  Puddles and mud and earthworms.  And I know, you are worried about colds, and laundry and all the other things.  But I promise it will be okay.  No, I'm not a doctor, but an hour or two enjoying the rain and the mud won't give your kid a cold.  Plus it's fun to jump into the bubble bath when you are done in the rain anyways!

5. Watching Nature at work.  If going outside seems like it's to scary or crazy for you, at least make sure the kids stand at an open window or door for a bit.  Watch the water go by.  Grab an umbrella and stand underneath it.  Listen to the sounds of nature.  Rain storms are a perfect time for your children to see G-d in action. To understand that G-d has an impact on the world in a physical way.  Sometimes we forget that G-d gives us the sun, but it's so much easier to see when the world is covered in gray and rain.

At the very least, the rain won't last forever.  And there are MILLIONS of posts and ideas about how to occupy your kids in the house in the rain.  So jump online or pinterest to see all those crazy ideas too.  Just remember that rather than "the man who bumped his head and couldn't get up in the morning," the next time you see rain think "raindrops are falling on my head, but that dosen't mean my eyes will soon be turning red"

Here's to rainy days!
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